Pres. Obama's Environmental Advisor tours Gundersen Lutheran - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Pres. Obama's Environmental Advisor tours Gundersen Lutheran

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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Gundersen Lutheran aims to be the first energy-independent hospital system.

It's a goal they plan to achieve by 2014, and the measures they've implemented are gaining national attention already.

Nancy Sutley, President Obama's principal environmental advisor, toured Gundersen to learn about the energy independence initiatives.

Sutley, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, viewed the engine on the Onalaska campus that uses biogas from a nearby landfill to provide heat and electricity.

She was joined on the tour by Congressman Ron Kind.

The engine creates all the energy the buildings on Gundersen's Onalaska campus need, making it completely energy independent.

The engine cost about 2.5 million dollars, but generates nearly $600,000 in revenue each year.

Sutley says Gundersen's engine is a model other hospitals in the nation can learn from.

"They were able to find in the system things they could do that were very inexpensive, that sort of pay themselves back and make them money. That's money that's available for having more doctors and more healthcare and less money spent on utility bills," Sutley said.

The engine will play for itself in about six to eight years.

The county also benefits from the bio-gas conversion, because Gundersen pays for use of the landfill gas.

In addition to being cleaner energy, lower costs for Gundersen ultimately can lower the cost of healthcare.

That engine is just one of Gundersen's clean energy projects. In a few months, they will open a bio-mass boiler that will off-set almost 40% of energy costs at Gundersen in La Crosse.

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